Gov. Imee Marcos calls for immediate action to mitigate impact of El Niño; water summit on drought set next week.
ILOCOS Norte Gov. Imee Marcos is calling for a Water Summit next week to plan out El Niño mitigating measures and mobilize immediate assistance for affected regions as PAGASA warns the public to brace for a full-blown El Niño this month.
“The dry spell will trigger widespread drought. We must be proactive in bringing help to our farmers who will bear the brunt of El Niño in affected areas. Sagip buhay dapat tayo ngayon sa ating mga magsasaka,” said Marcos, who is also the chairperson of the Regional Peace and Order Council.
PAGASA identified several provinces already experiencing drought, namely Ilocos Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Maguindanao, Sulu, Bukidnon, Basilan, Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur. This means three consecutive months of 60 percent rainfall reduction or five consecutive months of at least 21 percent rainfall reduction in drought stricken areas.
In Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, farmers have started harvesting their crops such as corn earlier than scheduled before these are laid to waste by the high temperatures.
Ilocos Norte’s Sustainable Development Office head Edwin Cariño said the summit will gather representatives of various farmer and crop grower federations, the academe, research centers, and associations of irrigators in the province and concerned officials of the Department of Agriculture, National Irrigation Authority and Philippine Rice Research Institute.
Cariño said at least five measures are readily implementable to mitigate the impact of El Niño: rain harvesting; switching to short-gestation crops that do not require abundant water such as monggo, watermelon and pechay; use of enhanced fertilizers that have better water-retention properties; installation of pond liners to collect water and serve as reservoirs; and the use of gray water to avoid wastage and maximize water use.
“Interventions must be put in place, targeted to pour assistance in critical areas and funded immediately and properly. We must act quickly to save our farmers and agricultural production from El Niño’s disastrous onslaught,” said Marcos.
She also repeated her call for the grant of living income for farmers in emergency situations (LIFE) in affected areas. “Our LGUs in affected areas direly need the national government’s assistance to help our farmers survive,” Marcos added.
“We must release emergency funds for our farmers, especially since our countrymen are just recovering from record-high inflation rates last year,” she added. Marcos said government agencies should be able to release quick response funds in times of disasters like El Niño even if the damage does not involve infrastructure.
El Niño is also expected to bring “way below normal” rainfall in some parts of the country that may significantly lower the water supply in major dams in Luzon, including Angat Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan. Angat Dam supplies 98 percent of Metro Manila’s water requirement and powers a hydro-electric power plant. Hydro-electric plants are also seen to generate less output because of the water shortage which, in turn, can cause outages in some parts of the country.